Maria E. Piñeres mixes pay for play in her current exhibition of recent needlework treasures at DCKT Contemporary. Drawing from Times Square in the good ol’ days, Maria inserts the erotic and now nostalgic images of rent boys within the elaborate playfields of pinball machines.
“Playland” is now a nonoperational arcade from the 1980’s and was located in what was once the great Smut District of New York. Before Times Square was a sad replica of chain stores and the painful monotony of any town U.S.A.wful, it was the city’s landmark headquarters of sexual perversion, where hookers and runaway teens learned, shoulder to shoulder, to hustle their tight little assholes to flip a buck. Now which era would you prefer?
Inside that bustling neighborhood of nickel peepshows, strip teases and street side hustlers, the Playland arcade was a fortress for New York kids to have a little fun themselves. In her own form of archeology, Maria sifts through the iconic remains of both memory and a now defunct neighborhood. Placing these dream boys behind the glass of our youthful pinball machines, Maria draws parallels in representation by confronting the double meanings in sex work and youthful play.
Whereas rent boys and street walkers represent something very real – a toy you can momentarily own for the right price – the arcade is more mythical, where games are designed to remove you from real life responsibility, putting forth trivial goals with worthless rewards. Addressing the arcade’s use of Latin phrases in their game machines, Maria teasingly situates the characters almost as a visual translation to their literal meanings. Who is playing whom?
Perhaps that is where Maria makes her existential connection – the idea that both pursuits are those fundamentally concerned with luck and chance. The gambles in human experience.
Maria E. Piñeres’ “PLAYLAND” is onview now through July 7 at DCKT Contemporary on 21 Orchard Street in New York, NY.
Contributed by Dean Dempsey.